Well, here we are, everyone’s favorite time of year – March Madness. The vibe is buzzing in the small towns and for the first-ever tournament berths or schools that have ended NCAA droughts. Will top-seeded Duke’s freshman trio crack under pressure against an underrated opponent? That’s just one of many questions are about to be answered throughout the next three weeks.
Three of the four No. 1 seeds are from the Atlantic Coast Conference, showing how deep the ACC is this season. If if you’re like me and your team didn’t make it to the tournament from the ACC (Miami) don’t feel bad – you were the worst of the best.
Expecting the unexpected makes the NCAA Tournament three weeks of Madness. Here are some upsets to look out for.
12 Liberty vs 5 Mississippi State
The Flames earned an automatic bid, blowing through the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament. Liberty is a dangerous 12 seed with a slow-paced offense featuring balanced scoring. If the Flames get hot from the 3-point line they’re tough to beat. Mississippi State played in the rugged Southeastern Conference but hasn’t beaten many “good” teams this season. In my opinion, this could be a blowout win for Liberty.
11 Saint Mary’s vs 6 Villanova
The Saint Mary Gaels defeated Gonzaga – a team that earned a No. 1 seed – in the West Coast Conference championship and could be riding that momentum into the NCAA Tournament against the Wildcats. In the WCC tournament championship, Saint Mary’s held Gonzaga’s high-powered offense (88.8 ppg) to 47 points. If that defense shows up against a Villanova, a team been up and down this season since winning the national championship last season, Saint Mary’s could knock out the defending champs.
12 Murray State vs 5 Marquette
Led by NBA Draft prospect and top three point guard Ja Morant, the Racers are an underdog by seed only. Murray State has a solid chance to beat Marquette if Morant can keep up the pace he has had all season. Murray State is fast-paced and high scoring, but it lives and dies with the play of its star point guard. Marquette has its own dynamic point guard in Marcus Howard. The Morant-Howard matchup is one of the most-anticipated in the first round. Murray State should move onto the Round of 32.
14 Georgia State vs 3 Houston
Georgia State’s head-to-head record against NCAA Tournament teams is not impressive but when it comes to March Madness, the Panthers have a history of being a tough out. Georgia State’s Devin Mitchell can light it up from downtown. The Cougars are a rugged group that has had a great season but if the Panthers can stay close and impose some game pressure on the higher seed they can move on to the Round of 32.
16 Gardner Webb vs 1 Virginia
Well…we all know what happened to Virginia last year. If Kyle Guy and company don’t step up we could have another 16 seed post an upset of historic proportions. Gardner Webb has the talent and shooting ability to get it done.